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Framework for defining ‘end of homelessness’ released

Defining what means to end homelessness is can be complicated, with communities often unsure how to measure their progress.

To help define what it a community without homelessness looks like, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) has developed a framework in hope of providing a national definition of what “end to homelessness” looks like.

The draft framework was released Monday and includes an outline of critical measures and indicators of homelessness.

“When talking about ‘ending homelessness’ and not just managing the problem, we need to be precise,” explained York University professor and director of COH, Stephen Gaetz.

“We need to know exactly what that means. This document really helps inform that observation.”

The proposed definition takes into account structural and systemic factors, such as poverty, access to affordable housing, mental addiction and lifecycle stage, all which interact in complex ways to impact homelessness.

Some of the indicators in the newly proposed definition include:

  • All unsheltered persons should be engaged in services and have been offered low-barrier shelter and housing at least every two weeks
  • The length of stay in an emergency shelter is less than 10 days on average and no more than 60 days in a year for one individual.
  • No more than five per cent of those who exit programs return to homelessness within 12 months
  • City laws do no criminalize people who are unsheltered.

“A national definition can help us address concerns and skepticism about what it means to end homelessness and help drive our efforts by providing clear goals,” said lead author and Fellow with the School of Public Policy, Alina Turner.

“There was so much variation internationally in the definitions and the measures different communities used, that it was difficult to see what progress was being made. This makes it difficult to determine the benchmarks for success.

The framework was a collaborative effort between the COH, University of Calgary School of Public Policy and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

The next step is nation-wide consultations to draft a finalized definition so each community can work toward the same measurable goal of ending homelessness. The goal is to have that completed by October, 2016.











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